Monday, Oct. 19, 2009 | 4:22 p.m.
The fat lady hasn’t sung yet regarding who will win the Sprint Cup Championship. But she is offstage warming up.
I’m not ready to say that Jimmie Johnson will definitely enter the record books as the first driver to win four championships in a row. And although there are a lot of things that are pointing in a positive direction for the No. 48 team, racing is a highly fluid situation. Any of the setbacks that have recently struck Chase contenders Juan Pablo Montoya, Carl Edwards or Denny Hamlin could bite Johnson and Company.
And then there’s Talladega. Any lap at that track can lead to a tangled mess of car carnage that can ruin a driver’s day and put a huge dent in someone’s championship hopes. Carl Edwards’ low altitude flight at the track in April was a perfect example of how scary a Talladega wreck can be. That scary example is why the track decided to spend a serious chunk of change to raise the catch fence.
But aside from the threat of “The Big One” that frequently occurs on the high banks of the Alabama track, Johnson isn’t a driver who consistently finishes well at Talladega. Johnson’s third-worst average finish of 17.7 comes from this track. Out of the 15 visits Johnson has made to this venue, he has finished 20th or worse seven times. His only win at Talladega came during the 2006 season.
Next week the traveling NASCAR circus visits Martinsville, a track that is also known to provide a lot of physical action that can put an end to anyone’s day. But that may not be a worry for the No. 48 team. Martinsville has been a gold mine for Johnson who has won five of the last six races there. A win at Martinsville will add to a points cushion that could help Johnson overcome any setbacks that Talladega could throw his way.